The benefits of learning a new language are evident. Studies show that those who learn a new language experience a boost in their memory as the cerebral cortex and hippocampus, the areas in the brain responsible for memory, experience growth.
Traveling is possibly the best way to immerse yourself in other cultures and in some cases, a language barrier might not hurt. While it’s prudent to learn the basics of a foreign language before traveling to a specific part of the world, sometimes the nuances of that language can really only be understood if experienced first-hand. What better way to experience the local culture than taking a road trip on foreign land?!
Throw yourself into the deep end
One of the best ways to pick up a new language is to throw yourself in the deep end. This means going to a part of the world where no one knows your language, forcing you to regurgitate what you’ve learned up to that point. But in order for this to be successful, you will need to at least know a few words to get by. A basic course or online tutorial will work. Why this approach works, is because you’ll have a basic understanding of the language, but not enough to form bad habits. It allows you to grow your language capability while closely aligned to the dialects and lingo of the local communities. You will also listen with understanding, which is critical in terms of language retention. It will also allow you to receive immediate correction if needed, which means the entire process is sped up.
Rough it out among the locals
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in what can accurately be described as the true local culture is to ditch the tourist spots and lodgings and find something a little more colloquial. When traveling to the lesser-traversed spots of a country, you’ll quickly learn that touristy talk and even signage is thrown out the door. Not only will you hear the correct pronunciation of words you may have been grappling with, but you’ll also be forced to quickly learn signage and spelling as not everything will be translated.
Something as simple as traveling to a nearby train station or ordering food in a restaurant may be a little more tricky. While exchange programs can be a great place to start, other ways would be to opt for less formal sleeping arrangements such as camping or traveling by RV. This allows more freedom to drill down right into the heart of the local culture and learn a side of the language that may not have been curated to suit foreign ears. It also means relying on the locals to help you with parking space and other amenities, which helps to build trust and foster relationships with the locals. Because there are no formal living arrangements, it also means you can slow down a little and experience life as a local, instead of adhering to check-ins and transport schedules.
Volunteer or study abroad
While it’s not always possible to work your way into the hearts of locals purely through travel, students and volunteers tend to pick up local languages out of necessity. It also helps that people know that it’s in your best interest and theirs that you learn these languages. Furthermore, learning a language while you study or volunteer will not only help you during your time of service, it will also make your resume more relevant. This means that you are more likely to be exposed to positions in areas that require that particular language skill, which will further allow you to develop your knowledge of that particular language.
Learning a language can be daunting, however, when the learning experience is coupled with adventure, it becomes a little easier to accomplish.